Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Organic chemical origins in hydrothermal systems

23.01.2014
Researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology reveal mechanisms for the formation of methane, which may have been a crucial stage in the origin of life on Earth.

Serpentinite-hosted hydrothermal systems have been suggested as likely sites for the formation of organic compounds in the abiotic conditions of early Earth, that is, in the absence of living organisms.


Geological map of the western Shiroumadake area. Circles and star indicate the studied hot springs. The star represents the location of the Hakuba Happo hot spring.

“Such compounds were likely crucial for the chemical evolution of life,” explain Konomi Suda and colleagues at Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan Agency of Marine-Earth Science and Technology and the Open University of Japan. Their latest research identifies mechanisms in the abiotic formation of the organic compound methane in serpentinite-hosted hydrothermal systems, a process that so far has not been satisfactorily understood.

The researchers compared water samples from a series of hot springs in the Shiroumadake area in Japan. Here due to recent volcanic activity they could study ongoing serpentinisation processes.

They measured the pH and temperature as well as the gas and ion content of the water samples in terms of both concentration and the ratio of different isotopes of the chemical constituents. Different isotopes of the same chemical differ in the number of neutrons in the nucleus. Each reaction yield characteristic isotope ratio because reaction rate of each isotopes are slightly different depending on processes.

Suda and colleagues found unexpected values for the ratio of different isotopes in the methane (CH4) and molecular hydrogen (H2) dissolved in the water, and the water itself (H2O) at the hot spring Hakuba Happo. In serpentinite-hosted hydrothermal systems methane was thought to form from synthesis with molecular hydrogen.

However the researchers found that the ratio of different isotopes and chemicals could not be explained for this process in the temperature and pH conditions they had measured. They conclude,

“Based on a comparison of the hydrogen isotope systematics of our results with those of other serpentinite-hosted hydrothermal systems, we suggest that abiotic CH4 production directly from H2O (without mediation by H2) may be more common in serpentinite-hosted systems.”

Background

Methane and organic compounds
Organic compounds are carbon based chemicals. The simplest organic compounds are strings of carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen. These hydrogen bonds can substitute with other atoms and molecules to provide the wide ranging organic chemicals that are found in living organisms.

Methane is the simplest organic compound comprising just one carbon atom bonded to four hydrogens. In the absence of living organisms methane synthesis can occur through abiotic mechanisms, which likely played a significant role in the early Earth environment. Possible abiotic mechanisms include the formation of methane directly from H2O or H2. The formation mechanism and conditions such as temperature and pH determine the relative levels of different isotopes.

The hot spring Hakuba Happo
The researchers compared water samples from five hot springs in the Shiroumadake area in Japan. One of these sites is Hakuba Happo, a newly discovered serpentinite-hosted system. Serpentinite is a rock that results from the geochemical processes of hydration and metamorphic transformation of ultramafic rock from the Earth's mantle.

The water at Hakuba Happo is pumped up from two drilling wells Happo #1 and Happo #3. It is one of the most alkaline hot springs in Japan and the concentration of CH4 was 10-100 times that of the other hot springs.

Isotopic fractionation and fractionation equilibrium
Different chemical isotopes that differ by the number of neutrons in the atomic nuclei form the same chemical compounds. For example both hydrogen (no neutrons in the nucleus) and deuterium (one neutron in the nucleus) can form molecular hydrogen (H2), water (H2O) and methane (CH4).

Processes described as ‘fractionation’ affect the relative abundance of different isotopes in the chemical compounds in a given system. Fractionation equilibrium describes the system when the abundance of isotopes in the different chemicals no longer changes with time. Comparing known fractionation equilibrium values with the measured isotopic abundance provides clues of processes that have taken place in the system.

Further information
Yukiko Tokida, Miwako Kato
Center for Public Information, Tokyo Institute of Technology
2-12-1, Ookayama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-8550, Japan
E-mail: kouhou@jim.titech.ac.jp
URL: http://www.titech.ac.jp/english/
Tel: +81-3-5734-2975 Fax: +81-3-5734-3661
About Tokyo Institute of Technology
As one of Japan’s top universities, Tokyo Institute of Technology seeks to contribute to civilization, peace and prosperity in the world, and aims at developing global human capabilities par excellence through pioneering research and education in science and technology, including industrial and social management. To achieve this mission, we have an eye on educating highly moral students to acquire not only scientific expertise but also expertise in the liberal arts, and a balanced knowledge of the social sciences and humanities, all while researching deeply from basics to practice with academic mastery. Through these activities, we wish to contribute to global sustainability of the natural world and the support of human life.

Website: http://www.titech.ac.jp/english/

Associated links
•http://www.titech.ac.jp/english/
Journal information
Konomi Sudaa∗, Yuichiro Uenoa,b,c, Motoko Yoshizakia, Hitomi Nakamuraa, Ken Kurokawac,d, Eri Nishiyamad, Koji Yoshinod, Yuichi Hongohe, Kenichi Kawachie, Soichi Omorif, Keita Yamadag, Naohiro Yoshidac,g, Shigenori Maruyamaa, “Origin of methane in serpentinite-hosted hydrothermal systems: The CH4–H2–H2O hydrogen isotope systematics of the Hakuba Happo hot spring” Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2014, 386 112-125.

a Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2-12-1 Ookayama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-8551, Japan

b Precambrian Ecosystem Laboratory, Japan Agency for Marine Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), 2-15 Natsushima-cho, Yokosuka237-0061, Japan

c Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2-12-1 Ookayama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-8551, Japan

d Department of Bioinformation, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 4259 Nagatsuda, Midori-ku, Yokohama 226-8502, Japan

e Department of Biological Science, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2-12-1 Ookayama, Meguro-ku,Tokyo 152-8550, Japan

f Faculty of Liberal Arts, The Open University of Japan, 2-11 Wakaba, Mihama-ku, Chiba 261-8586, Japan

g Department of Environmental Chemistry and Engineering, Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 4259 Nagatsuda, Midori-ku, Yokohama 226-8502, Japan

Adarsh Sandhu | Research asia research news
Further information:
http://www.titech.ac.jp/english/
http://www.researchsea.com

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Seismic study reveals huge amount of water dragged into Earth's interior
18.12.2018 | National Science Foundation

nachricht A damming trend
17.12.2018 | Michigan State University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New megalibrary approach proves useful for the rapid discovery of new materials

Northwestern discovery tool is thousands of times faster than conventional screening methods

Different eras of civilization are defined by the discovery of new materials, as new materials drive new capabilities. And yet, identifying the best material...

Im Focus: Data storage using individual molecules

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.

Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

New megalibrary approach proves useful for the rapid discovery of new materials

19.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

Artificial intelligence meets materials science

19.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

Gut microbiome regulates the intestinal immune system, researchers find

19.12.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>